Abby Wambach became the first American since Mia Hamm in 2002 to win the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, while Lionel Messi was selected the best men’s player in the world for an unprecedented fourth consecutive year.
The awards were announced at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala in Zurich on Monday.
Wambach, who said afterwards that she never expected to win the award, was able to celebrate with U.S. teammates Alex Morgan and Hope Solo. Morgan was also a finalist and finished third in the voting, while Solo presented the award.
Five-time winner Marta of Brazil finished second in the voting. Hamm won in 2001 and 2002 – the first years of the women’s award.
Pia Sundhage, who had coached the U.S. women to a gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, was honored as the FIFA women’s coach of the year. Following the Olympics, Sundhage resigned to return to her native Sweden where she took over as head coach of their national team.
Sundhage has been known to sing to fans and players, and she honored her American team with an impromptu version of “If Not For You” as she accepted the award.
Only La Liga Players Selected to World XI
Messi became the first male ever to win Player of the Year four times. France’s Zinedine Zidane and Brazil’s Ronaldo each won three times. In 2012, Messi scored 91 goals in all competitions for club and country, and in the process, he broke Gerd Muller’s 40-year-old world record for most goals in a calendar year.
The Barcelona star had great company. All 11 players selected to the world’s first team play in Spain’s La Liga. Five come from Real Madrid, five from Barcelona and one from Atletico Madrid.
Iker Casillas (Spain), Dani Alves (Brazil), Marcelo (Brazil), Gerard Piqué (Spain), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Andrés Iniesta (Spain), Xavi Hernández (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Radamel Falcao (Colombia) and Messi (Argentina) were named to the FIFA/FIFPro World XI.
Vicente del Bosque of the Spanish national team won men’s coach of the year. The Goal of the Year went to Miroslav Stoch of Fenerbahçe.